The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has published new guidelines for emergency homeless shelters that explicitly state that people who are transgender should be assigned to single-sex shelters that conform with their gender identity. The guidelines were published to clarify a rule proposed in 2012 stating that any housing program that receives federal funding must be made available “to individuals and families without regard to actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity, or marital status.”
The new guidelines, published November 20, 2015 on National Transgender Day of Remembrance, make it clear that people who are transgender and who are in need of emergency shelter must be assigned to a shelter that matches their gender identity. They also state that it is the responsibility of those operating federally-funded shelters that to ensure that their staff are trained appropriately in how to meet the needs of clients who are transgender.
“Homeless shelters can be unsafe places for people who are transgender, and these new guidelines from HUD are a welcome step forward in mandating a uniform national policy around the placement of transgender people in shelters and other federal-funded facilities,” said Sean Cahill, Director of Health Policy Research for The Fenway Institute. [pullquote]”Homeless shelters can be unsafe places for people who are transgender, and these new guidelines from HUD are a welcome step forward in mandating a uniform national policy around the placement of transgender people in shelters and other federal-funded facilities,” said Sean Cahill, Director of Health Policy Research for The Fenway Institute.[/pullquote]
A national survey of more than 6,500 transgender people access a homeless shelter were refused services, and 55 percent of those who successfully accessed emergency shelter were harassed by other clients and shelter staff. Additionally, 42 percent were forced to stay in shelters set up for the wrong gender. Meanwhile, a survey of transgender residents in Massachusetts conducted by The Fenway Institute and the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition and published in 2014 found that nearly two-thirds of respondents experienced discrimination in public settings, including shelters.
In 2004 the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Policy Institute, then led by Sean Cahill, and the National Coalition for the Homeless issued a report titled Transitioning our shelters: A guide to making homeless shelters safe for homeless people. The report made it clear that women’s shelters could accommodate transgender women and ensure the safety of all residents.
“Homeless shelters are a vital social service safety net for people in crisis. The last thing anyone seeking shelter should have to worry about is being denied service because of their appearance or gender identity,” Cahill added. “We hope that HUD formally adopts these guidelines as a new national rule for all federally-funded housing programs, including homeless shelters.”
Information about the new HUD guidelines is available here:
[From a News Release]